DANNY ONEIL

O’Neil: Why is Seahawks’ Russell Wilson still being hailed as an NFL MVP candidate?

Dec 27, 2017, 11:01 AM | Updated: 11:26 am
Russell Wilson...
Russell Wilson's biggest play on Sunday was a fumble for the Seahawks. (AP)
(AP)

The Seahawks won a game in spite of losing more yards to penalties (142) than they gained on offense (136).

The offense has crossed midfield on its own exactly four times in the last eight quarters.

O’Neil: Reports of Seahawks’ defensive demise greatly exaggerated

And yet Seattle is one victory away from matching its win total from each of the past two seasons, which is just one thing that is tough to decipher about this Seahawks’ season:

Stuff we’re still trying to figure out

1. Why would Russell Wilson be No. 2 on Peter King’s MVP ballot?

The 50 MVP voters only pick one name, but if asked to rank the top three, here’s how King – Sports Illustrated’s venerable scribe – would rank them: No. 1 Tom Brady, No. 2 Wilson, No. 3 Todd Gurley. Now Wilson has been remarkably productive when you consider how much he has to do, but he shouldn’t be in the MVP discussion at this point, either. Todd Gurley should be ahead of him. Even Seattle’s coach has been critical of his quarterback’s performance as Mike Salk asked Pete Carroll on Tuesday why he has been tougher on Wilson the past couple weeks. “Well, he didn’t play very well the last two weeks,” Carroll said. “We didn’t put any yards on the board.” Seattle sure didn’t, gaining a combined total of 285 yards over the past two games, and Wilson’s most important play on Sunday in Dallas was the fumble he recovered. But Wilson has also been sacked 10 times in those two games, and the fact that he’s going to be the first quarterback in the modern NFL to lead his team in rushing is hardly a good thing. Wilson has had a good season given everything he must do for this team, and his mental toughness has been incredible. Wilson has not had a great season, though.

2. Where did Seattle’s blitz-happy game plan come from?

And more importantly, can we get some more of that from defensive coordinator Kris Richard? Seattle blitzed cornerback Justin Coleman twice in the first quarter of Sunday’s win at Dallas, Shaq Griffin recorded a sack later in the game and suddenly a pass rush that had been dormant for more than a month came to life. The Seahawks finished with four sacks, their most in any game since Nov. 5, and the pressure noticeably affected Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. “We wanted to be aggressive,” Carroll said. “We always like to find our ways to be aggressive because it changes everything. I thought Kris did a nice job of mixing ‘em up and getting ‘em going and obviously the guys came off the edges really well.” Here’s hoping that Seattle mixes ‘em up and gets ‘em going more often this week against Arizona.

3. What’s the solution to the NFL’s problems with pass interference?

The Seahawks were penalized for 142 yards, their most in any game since 1979. That’s misleading, though. More than half of those penalty yards came courtesy of two pass-interference penalties in the second half. The one against Byron Maxwell was debatable. The one against Coleman, which cost Seattle 43 yards, was not. It was a flat-out bad call. But there aren’t any obvious solutions here. Making those plays subject to replay review may sound great, but it’s not. Officials are going to see MORE contact with slow-motion replays, not less. Providing officials with an option for a lesser violation – a misdemeanor pass interference so to speak, which is not a spot foul – sounds good, too, except it just gives officials more decisions to make at a time when they’re already overloaded. The answer is for officials to call fewer penalties, but that’s not in line with the league’s increasingly officious approach to everything from fouls to injury reports.

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